The country has produced 42 world boxing champions, but right off the bat you can say that it has never seen anyone like Manny Pacquiao.
The longevity Pacquiao has shown is incomparable when compared to all other Filipino world boxing champions. Pacquiao is already 40 years old, but still holds the WBA (regular) welterweight championship. No other Filipino boxer has ever won or regained a world title at age 40. Pacquiao somehow continues to defy Father Time.
In January, Pacquiao outclassed a younger and supposedly more agile Adrien Broner to retain the WBA hardware. On July 20, Pacquiao is booked to take on another young and unbeaten foe in WBA (super) welterweight champ Keith Thurman.
“Pacquiao has got to be the most conditioned 40-year-old I have seen this year,” said former heavyweight champ George Foreman. “Twelve rounds (against Broner) and no steps backward.”
Pacquiao’s showdown with Thurman will be his 71st paid contest in a pro career that started in 1995 and encompassed eight weight divisions.
Of the country’s 42 world champions, the following competed beyond the age of 35: Dado Marino, Ceferino Garcia, Gabriel Elorde, Bernabe Villacampo, Luisito Espinosa, Jesus Salud, Malcolm Tunacao, Gerry Penalosa, Sonny Boy Jaro, Brian Viloria, Donnie Nietes, Nonito Donaire Jr. and Pacquiao. Jaro, Donaire, Nietes and Pacquiao are still active and may even push the envelope further.
Before Pacquiao, the only former Filipino world champ who fought until he was almost 40 years old was Gerry Penalosa. Former junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) and bantamweight (118 lbs.) king Penalosa was already 39 years old, just two months shy of 40, when he made his farewell ring appearance in 2010. Penalosa lost two of his last 4 fights, but still left a winner with a fourth round stoppage of Thailand’s Anan Saeauy.
Former world middleweight champion (160 lbs.) Ceferino Garcia, the heaviest Filipino world titlist, was 38 years old when he figured in his last contest in January 1945. Garcia, who battled the likes of Henry Armstrong and Barney Ross in his prime, lost a decision to Billy McDowell in his last fight. While Garcia retired at 38, he holds the record for the most number of fights tallied by a Filipino world champion. Garcia registered 120 wins, 30 losses and 14 draws for a grand total of 164 contests. Pacquiao is nowhere close to matching Garcia’s fight ledger.
Marino, who was already a grandfather when he won the world flyweight title in 1950, was 37 years old when he dropped a decision to Yoshio Shirai in his last fight in November 1952. Marino’s last two fights were for the world title and he lost both to Japanese Shirai.
Elorde, who still holds the Philippine record for the longest title reign in a single weight class (world junior lightweight king from 1960-67), was 36 years old when dropped a unanimous decision to Japanese Hiroyuki Morukami in May 1971. Elorde (89-27) had lost two of his last 4 fights when he retired from boxing.
Nietes (37) and Donaire (36) are still very competitive for their age, but it is unlikely that they will be able to duplicate Pacquiao’s feat of being a world champ at 40. Nietes has not seen action since December, when he won the WBO junior bantamweight crown over Japanese Kazuto Ioka. Nietes gave up the belt and is looking at more lucrative fights.
Donaire returned to world champion status in November, when he defeated Ryan Burnett for the WBA (super) bantamweight crown. Donaire is booked to take on Japanese superstar and WBA-IBF champ Naoya Inoue in a unification showdown.
Majority of the country’s world champions left the fight game early. In fact, many were already worn-out even before they reached the age of 30.
Morris East, who was only 19 years old when he won the WBA junior welterweight title in September 1992, left the fight game at age 21 after dropping a decision to Robert Azumah in May 1995. Former world junior lightweight king Ben Villaflor was only 23 years old when he retired in 1976 after losing a decision to then WBA champ Sammy Serrano.
If Pacquiao beats Thurman and decides to call it day, he will accomplish another milestone: the first Filipino boxer to retire with a world title strapped around his waist. Pancho Villa was still the flyweight king when he had his last fight in July 1925, but his life was cut short when he succumbed to a tooth infection at age 23.
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